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A Summary of My Chemo Experience

Created January 7th, 2010, filed in Stage 0 Breast Cancer

This is a summary of the chemo treatment I survived. I have never experienced anything like this. Radiation, and even surgery, was a breeze in comparison:

6 treatments, one every 21 days:

- for each treatment, Brad and I were there 2.5 to 4 hours (always had the bloodwork and meeting with the doctor a day or 2 before treatment)

- #2 was delayed due to low white blood counts. I also had 1 or 2 day delays due to holidays or scheduling. Overall it took 4 months, May 7 to August 29th (not including recovery from the last one).

- it took 2-3 hours for each treatment (administered through an IV into my port-a-cath).

The first 3 treatments were a mixture of 3 drugs (Fluorouracil (5FU), Epirubicin (Red Devil), Cyclophosphamide) and the next 3 treatments were Docetaxol (taxotere). FEC-D. Seems to be the current standard chemo for breast cancer patients in Canada.

The first 3 treatments kicked in within a couple of hours – nauseau and fatigue. The second 3 treatments kicked in after 2-3 days – bone pain.

Because my white blood counts didn’t come back up quickly enough, I was given neupogen. 5 self-administered shots after each chemo. Not fun.

My red blood counts dropped during the taxotere and I became anemic. That was monitored, but eventually came up on its own. No blood transfusion required.

The worst side effects for me included nausea (never actually threw up), self-administered neupogen shots due to low white counts, bone pain, sleeplessness (lots of laying awake at night), sense of smell – I could barely inhale, everything offended me (in hindsight I realize it must have been the chemo coming out of my pores). Also the change in tastes – I missed coffee, red wine, and some regular things like caesar salad that just didn’t taste right. I didn’t feel like myself, I always felt sick, and low energy. Chemo also made me more sensitive to pain – my port and my scar from surgery would ache more. Also, no surprise, I was getting a lot of anxiety the couple of days before chemo (ativan/lorazepam helped with that).There were times I really didn’t think I could go through with the next treatment.

The side effects that weren’t too bad included the watery eyes and the hair loss. Earrings are a must, to go with the scarves. As we got into winter, it was great to have a hat with a matching scarf – made me feel less conspicuous.

The side effects I dreaded but haven’t had, included nerve pain in the feet, infections/hospitalization due to low blood counts, weight gain, worse nausea, extreme fatigue.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The things that got me through it all – #1 is the support from my family and friends. My breast cancer support group (6 of us close in age and treatment phase – we can talk about anything, we understand each other), the blogging community, my doctors and nurses, the ability to sleep a lot, earrings, and my eyebrow pencil. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The port-a-cath was definitely better than having veins poked each time, but I think I might have been better off with the PICC (catheter in the upper arm). Hard to say, disadvantages to each I guess. PICC would have come out the last day of chemo, the port came out about 2 months after.

I miss running and having a regular exercise routine, but walking has been good, and I can look forward to running again soon enough.

Six weeks post-chemo I noticed some new side effects – numb toes. It’s like they are asleep. no pain, just tingly like they are waking up (but they don’t). Otherwise, my strength is coming back, I can walk at a pretty good pace, but those muscle aches are still faintly there (down arms and legs).

Two months post-chemo. My muscle aches (all down my legs and arms) are pretty much gone. I can put my hand on my thigh and not feel pain. The aches peaked at about 4-5 weeks after the last chemo. I just kept walking (but not too much) and drinking lots of fluids.

Four months post-chemo. Muscle aches are all gone. Just the tingly toes left (and the sore arm from surgery). Enough hair to not cover my head around friends. During radiation, I was out every day to get treatment, so I was walking and drinking my water. After that, I sort of faded. The weather got really cold, and I didn’t have to go out, so my walking slowed down. My energy went down as well. Last week I focused on walking and drinking water (and green tea) and I am already feeling stronger.

My biggest wish is that something is found that PREVENTS cancer, and no one ever has to go through these treatments.

I survived.

Hi, I'm Bill McD.

Coming off my last chemo treatment has been bad for me - total lack of energy - am pushing myself to keep metabolic levels up to get rid of the poisons in my system, but just walking around the house wears me out. Sleep is another problem — first go to bed get about 2 hours and then the hourly awaken and urination cycle begins and continues till I finally give up about 7:00am and get up. Glad to hear about your drinking water, I probably need to get more into me during the day and am trying by using those little squirt bottles to flavor the water. Beth – glad you are finding the light at the end of the tunnel, best wishes from Bill McD

  • Sun Jul 19, 2015
Hi, I'm ANITA B.

Happy with your outcome !\BE STRONG !

Still have drain ! going tmorrow to surgeon hopefully she can remove it ! Had right mastec
Need your support !!!

  • Thu Aug 20, 2015
Hi, I'm Wendy D H.

Thank you for sharing. I have had 2 out of 5 of my scheduled (4 to six hour) infusions for stage 4 lymphoma in my sacrum and spine.
I feel better now than I have in two years thanks to my wonderful oncologist Dr Semrad at the Truckee Upshaw Cancer center.
I had neuropathy and a fractured sacrum for 2 months before I was in so much nerve pain that yoga and pain management could not relieve…so after a third MRI and two spine surgeries the chemotherapy began.
Now I am taking no pain meds just a combination of Gabapentine and Lyrica 3 times a day. Plus Accupuncter once a week and massages. My spine surgeries are healing and have relieved the pain so that I can stand up straight and practice walking.
I am 64 and past athlete. Can’t wait to get through this and play golf this summer and snow ski next winter ❄️ I will beat this. It is challenging but I’m very competitive…
My advice to others fighting this disease:
Stay strong but let others help you
Surround yourself with positive people and affirmations
And think of others who are much worse off and fighting even harder each day
Be thankful that it is you and not a loved one that is suffering…

  • Sun Feb 10, 2019